A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany
United States Coast Guard Dogs!
The basic structure of the wartime beach patrol was set into motion even prior to Pearl Harbor. On Feb. 3, 1941, all coastal areas of the United States were organized into defense divis- ions known as Naval Coastal Frontiers.
Then, on Nov. 1, 1941, under Executive Order No. 8929, the Coast Guard was transferred to the Navy for the duration of what would soon become, for the U.S., World War II.
Naval Coastal Frontiers became Sea Frontiers after Feb. 6, 1942 with Army and Navy personnel in each area to guard the coast and prevent invasion. The Army was charged with the defense of the land areas, while the Navy would maintain inshore and offshore patrols.
The Coast Guard, as a part of the Navy, was the logical choice to work along the beaches. With an already long proud tradi- tion of beach patrols dating back to the days of the nineteenth century Life-Saving Service, the Coast Guard organized the beach patrol.
These beach patrols were primarily security forces and had three basic functions:
ï To detect and observe enemy vessels operating in coastal waters and to transmit information on these craft to the appropriate Navy and Army commands;
ï To report attempts of landings by the enemy and to assist in preventing landings;
ï Prevent communication between persons on shore and the enemy at sea.
The patrols also functioned as a rescue agency and policed restricted areas of the coast. Just the rescue function alone more than justified the operation of the patrol.
In the first hectic and confused months of the United States' participation in the war, patrols were conducted in much the same way they were during peacetime. That is, one man, armed only with flares, would patrol the beach. The responsibility for this work was placed under the local Captain of the Port.
Meanwhile, the FBI continued issuing warnings about the possibility of enemy landings. But the work of the beach patrol was not taken seriously until one key incident occurred in June 1942.
On the foggy night of June 13, 1942, the U-202 surfaced off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. near Amagansett. Led by George J. Dasch, four Nazi agents were brought ashore in a rubber raft. They were part of Operation Pastorious, with a mission to strike key U.S. factories and railroads to promote panic and disrupt transportation.
Reaching the beach, the Nazi agents quickly changed from German fatigue uniforms to civilian clothing and began burying their uniforms.
At the same time, 21-year-old John Cullen, Seaman 2nd Class, was making his six-mile patrol from the Amagansett Station. Out of the fog, Cullen suddenly saw someone approaching him.
When the Coast Guardsman challenged the stranger to identify himself, the stranger (Dasch), said he was George Davis and said, "We're fishermen from Southampton and ran aground here."
The other agents could be seen dimly in the heavy fog. One of them came closer and shouted something in a foreign langu- age. Cullen thought it sounded like German, and becoming suspicious, he suggested the men return with him to the Coast Guard station. Davis refused and then began to threaten Cullen, saying "I don't want to kill you." Davis then offered Cullen $300 to forget he had seen anything.
Outnumbered, and possibly facing weapons, the unarmed Coast Guardsman accepted the money, thinking that perhaps he could get out of this situation alive. As soon as Cullen was out of sight, be began to run, making it back to the Coast Guard station in record time. Years later Cullen recalled, "I had no weapon more dangerous than a flashlight and a flare gun." Furthermore, he said, "no one would believe the story unless I had evidence to prove it."
Back at the station, Boatswain's Mate Carl R. Jenette listened incredulously to Cullen's story. Then he saw the evidence of the money and quickly called Warrant Officer Warren Baines, the commanding officer of the Amagansett Station. Jenette then armed Cullen and three other Coast Guardsmen and the group returned to the scene of the encounter.
The Nazi agents were gone, but the Coast Guardsmen could smell diesel fuel and hear the throbbing of an engine offshore. Through the fog they could dimly make out the superstructure of the U-202, which had run aground and was now trying to free itself.
"She had a blinker light," said Cullen. "We ducked behind a dune, not wanting to get shelled, until she slid away."
A morning search of the beach area uncovered explosives and incendiary devices. The Coast Guard notified the FBI, who captured Dasch the next day. For his work, John Cullen received a promotion to Petty Officer 2nd Class and the Legion of Merit medal.
After Dasch revealed the story to the FBI, all saboteurs in New York and Jacksonville were immediately arrested. By June 25, 1942, all the would be Nazi saboteurs had been captured. The two naturalized Americans, Dasch and Ernest Peter Burger, and the other six, who had all called America "home" at one point or another, were all found guilty! Six were executed by electric chair at the District of Columbia Jail Aug. 8, 1942. Dasch was sentenced to 30 years at hard labor while Burger was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor.
The landings in New York and one in Florida quickly dispelled any further questions about the need for a beach patrol.
On July 25, 1942, Coast Guard Headquarters authorized all Naval Districts that were adjacent to the coast to organize a well-armed and maintained beach patrol, with proper commun- ication equipment to relay messages.
Five days later, the vice chief of staff for naval operations informed commanders of the Sea Frontiers that the, "...beaches and inlets of the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific Coast would be patrolled by the Coast Guard whenever and where ever possible."
Because the patrol activities were intertwined with the activities of the FBI, Army and Navy, Coast Guard Headquarters defined the specific functions of the patrol. "The beach patrols are not intended as a military protection of our coastline, as this is a function of the Army.
The Coast Guard Provided Their K-9's With Canvas Boots To Protect Their Pads From Coral And Seashells.
The beach patrols are more in the nature of outposts to report activities along the coastline and are not to repel hostile armed units. The functions of the Army in this connection is [sic] not to guard against surreptitious acts, but rather to furnish the armed forces required to resist any attempt by armed enemy forces or parties to penetrate the coastline by force."
In short, the beach patrol acted as a coastal information system. It was operated under a national Beach Patrol Division in Headquarters under the command of CAPT Raymond J. Mauerman. Each district established its own patrol organization and its own beach patrol officer and operated as a part of port security. Ten districts operated patrols, made up of approximately 24,000 officers and men. The area covered by the sand pounders was about 3,700 miles.
The varying nature of America's coastline prevented complete coverage of all beaches. On the Gulf Coast, for example, swamps created obstacles. Where the sand pounders could not walk, boat and motor patrols were established.
Normal foot patrol procedures required men to travel in pairs. The patrolmen were armed with rifles, or sidearms and flare pistols. The pairing of the patrols allowed one man to hold a suspect, while the other went for assistance.
Usual distances covered were two miles or less, with the Coast Guardsmen required to report in by special telephone boxes placed along the beaches at about quarter-mile lengths. These phones were obviously not available at every location, espec- ially in isolated regions.
In some locales, the men conducted the patrols only at night. In those areas of potential invasion or sabotage activities, around-the-clock vigils were maintained.
The routine of foot patrols was far from exciting or glamorous. A walk along a beach on a bright moonlit June night might seem pleasurable, but the same beach could also be 20 degrees below zero when the patrolman was plodding it in February. In some areas, steep descents onto the beach could be extremely hazardous on dark, rainy nights. One Coast Guardsman at Duxbury, Mass. said the beach there was usually "covered with round, slippery rocks concealed by slimy kelp, flotsam, jetsam and just plain sludge." In some parts of the south, Coast Guardsmen had to face obstacles like alligators, blood-sucking insects, and poisonous snakes.
But Coast Guardsmen also found some interesting things while patrolling that had washed ashore: life preservers, life jackets, sometimes with bullet holes which bore witness to the fury of the Battle of the Atlantic, messages-in-the-bottle, and, some times, even bodies.
Dog Patrols Start
In 1942, the Coast Guard recognized that the use of dogs, with their keen sense of smell and their ability to be trained for guard duty, would help enhance the beach patrols.
The first dog beach patrols began at Brigantine Park, N.J., in August 1942. The dogs were so successful, that within a year, the animals and their handlers were on duty in all the districts, on both the east and west coasts.
Dog patrols were usually conducted at night and consisted of a dog and dog handler. The patrol length was about one mile. Where canine patrols were in effect, the two-man foot patrols were replaced, thus reducing personnel requirements.
Coast Guard Training Exercise
The Coast Guard eventually received about 2,000 dogs for beach patrol duties. At first the coast guard men, known as sand pounders and coasties, received their training directly from the army at the QMC's Front Royal Center.
The Coast Guard soon established three training centers along the east coast. Dogs and their handlers were schooled on the 300-acre estate of P.A.B. Widnener, at the Elkin Park Training Station in Pennsylvania. Others were trained at Hilton Head, S.C. and Curtis Bay, Maryland.
The animals showed great alertness and were formidable as attackers. A 50-to-75-pound snarling dog could be more frightening than a man with a pistol. They also even acted as protection for Coast Guardsmen themselves.
On the dark beach at night they (sic, K-9 dogs) can spot a stranger by his scent. They don't bark, but will lead the sentry silently toward he intruder, even crawling on their bellies if necessary for better concealment.
"One dark night I hid behind a sand dune to test a sentry and see how keen his dog was," said an Coast Guard officer, as we stood out on the beach. "He was a little late, having lingered over the coffee and sandwiches that are brought to the sentries at night."
"The wind was blowing from me toward the dog, but at an angle, so at first he didn't catch my scent. I thought both man and dog had fallen down on their job. But just then the dog did smel me and came for me like a flash."
"I told the man that if his dog hadn't done so well, he would have lost some leave for being late. He went out to the kennel later and kissed the dog!"
In one case, near Plymouth, Mass. a patrolman was prevented from walking off a cliff on a dark night when his dog refused to advance further.
At Oregon Inlet, N.C., CG dog Nora actually saved the life of a Coast Guardsman. Sometimes, however, they were not quite as helpful. On three occasions, in the same area, the dogs led their handlers on what appeared to be the trail of suspicious persons only to find skunks instead!
Nora saves Coastie's life!
Dogs were very valuable assets for the USCG Beach Patrol. Just ask Evans E. Mitchell of Chicago. Mitchell was patrolling the coast near Oregon Inlet, N.C. one cold dark night during November 1943 when he fainted in an isolated spot.
Nora, a Coast Guard dog, found Mitchell unconscious, grabbed his cap and ran to the station with it.
After arousing help there, the shepherd raced ahead to another Coast Guardsman patrolling the beach and led him to Mitchell, who by that time was in danger of dying from exposure.
According to the photo's 1943 caption, he was taken to the Marine hospital in Norfolk, Va., where he recuperated.
Nora, shown re-enacting her rescue in the photo above, had been purchased by an Oregon Inlet Coastie for 50 cents seven months prior to the incident.
The Invasion Threat Over!
By the beginning of 1944, with the threat of a coastal invasion diminishing, Coast Guard headquarters ordered a reduction of the dog patrols. On May 10, 1944, orders were issued to begin the official demobilization of all dog patrols.
Even though the program was reduced 75 percent, many dogs and their handlers were placed on special guard duties.
The Coast Guard had ultimately became the largest procurer of dogs from the army, with a peak population of 3,649 dogs.
By the end of the war, 2,662 coast guard men had received training as handlers by both the army and within their own camps.
Most of the dogs were returned to Fort Robinson, Nebraska, and then processed into the army or demilitarized and returned to their civilian owners.
The Coast Guard also closed each of its dog training centers.
NEXT: US Army's Search & Rescue!